What does the fox say?
Rupert Ochsner on his 16-bit run-and-gun
Rupert Ochsner stops by to chat about his 16-bit love letter to the run-and-gun genre, Fox N Forests
Fox N Forests has been on our radar since hitting its Kickstarter goal in 2016. Now, just under two years after it was originally announced, Bonus Level Entertainment is preparing to release its love letter to the run-and-gun genre. We spoke to Rupert Ochsner to find out more.
Where did the concept for Fox N Forests originate?
The day my brother and I imported the Super Famicom from Japan back in the Nineties was the day when creating a 2D action platform game became my biggest dream. Two console generations later, when playing Ikaruga on the Gamecube, the idea of switching seasons emerged and finally led to the creation of our [game].
How long has it taken to make the game so far?
It almost took three years from putting together the first design documents to finishing the game. Fox N Forests is a codevelopment between Bonus Level Entertainment and Independent Arts Software and the core team consists of five people plus freelancers that worked together for about two years. Aside from Ghosts ‘N Goblins, does your game pay tribute to other titles?
It sure does! We basically created our personal 16-bit masterpiece by combining our own ideas with elements from games we love, such as Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, Wonder Boy In Monster World, Actraiser 2, Castle Of Illusion, Mega Man X and Zelda: A Link to the Past.
What’s been the hardest thing to get right, from a game design point of view?
The collisions of the sprites, as well as getting the combination of the ranged and close-up attacks right, as our hero Rick The Fox uses a ‘Magic Melee Crossbow’ with a bayonet. During the course of development, we tried many different things such as an auto melee attack similar to Metal Slug or having separate buttons, one for shooting, one for slashing. Finally, we went for a dedicated attack button that will let you shoot when standing, kind of similar to Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, and perform a melee attack in combination with pressing up, down, jumping or double jumping.
What technical challenges have you faced?
We were using Unity in order to make developing and later porting from PC (Windows, Linux, Mac) to PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch as smooth as possible and luckily didn’t face any major problems thanks to our experienced, hardworking team.
How does the changing of seasons work?
Switching seasons is the core feature of Fox N Forests and a lot of thinking and design work went into it. For example, we decided that Rick The Fox can switch between two predefined seasons per level, in order to maintain a quick and fluid gameplay – an A/B switch mechanic is more intuitive than an A/B/C/D one. Rick can switch seamlessly and on the fly between two seasons that vary per level by pressing one of the lower shoulder buttons. However, staying in the alternate season costs mana, so watch your mana bar, which can be refilled via collecting pick-ups. Just in case, it also refills automatically and of course the mana bar can be upgraded. So, in level 1:1 ‘Revolving River’
Rick can switch between spring and winter, freezing the river and turning it into ice to walk on. In a later shoot-’em-up level, ‘Tricky Treetops’, where Rick is riding on his sidekick Patty The Partridge, the forest is on fire and switching seasons results in rain coming up, distinguishing nasty flames. However, harmless clouds will now turn into electrifying thunder enemies that must not be touched. Then we have fog vanishing in winter, giant leaves spawning in fall or bees that can only be passed when sleeping in winter and so on.
What led you to going with a 16-bit art style?
As mentioned earlier, it was always our dream to create a 16-bit style game. We went for a nostalgic Super Nintendo look and feel as it reminds us of the good old days when we were playing games all day and we combined this with modern game design. Basically, what Shovel Knight did with 8-bit presentation we are doing with 16-bit. How did you feel about the game passing its Kickstarter?
This was a important step for us and we were super happy that all the hard work has paid off as well as receiving such great feedback for our vision.
One of the pledges was to help design a level. How has that worked out?
We offered the opportunity to either fully constructed a level yourself in our level editor, or to deliver ideas and sketches for us to implement. The process was handled via calls between these backers and our designers and resulted in some exciting, fresh ideas.
Why do you think retro-styled games like Fox N Forests do so well on Kickstarter?
Retro-style games usually hit a nostalgic nerve within older gamers, [and are] the same kind of people who are usually willing, or in the position to take a small financial risk in order to help a project get on its feet. We’d like to offer a big thank you to all of our backers for their support at this point. Personally, I am very happy with how the whole thing has turned out and that playing Fox N Forests truly feels like the 16-bit games we all love and remember!
We basically created our personal 16-bit masterpiece Rupert Ochsner
[PC] Fox N Forests will be heading to everything from PC to Switch. Expect a review in a later issue.
[PC] Switching between seasons is an important mechanic and lets you solve certain puzzles and discover hidden secrets.
jumping skills to fellow and has similar[PC] Rick is a nimble ‘N Ghosts. Arthur in Super Ghouls
[PC] There are plenty of items hidden away in Fox N Forests, just like the platformers of old.